TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: IT CONQUERED THE WORLD (1956)

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IT CONQUERED THE WORLD (1956)

(Remember, clicking the highlighted links brings you to other reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

I recently began reading Roger Corman’s autobiography How I Made A Hundred Movies In Hollywood And Never Lost A Dime and it made me want to revisit some of his earliest films that I first saw on TV’s Chiller Theater and Creature Features as a kid.

One of Corman’s earliest flicks as a producer and director, this thriller tells the story of an alien invader from Venus, who isn’t particularly happy that earth has started sending satellites into space. It comes here to invade using bat-like creatures to take over people’s minds and with the help of bitter earth scientist, Dr. Tom Anderson (Lee Van Cleef) who believes earth needs ‘saving’ by this higher intelligence. Standing in the way of this nefarious plot is scientist Dr. Paul Nelson (Peter Graves) along with some feisty heroines and the usual soldiers and military types that populated films of this era.

Corman directs with a serious hand, from the script by Lou Rusoff and frequent Corman collaborator Charles B. Griffith, despite that his creature looks like a combination of cucumber and crustacean. He shot it in about two weeks on a budget far lower than the average Hollywood flick of the time and the production looks better than one might expect due to Corman thriftiness. While the creature FX are cheesy and the dialogue equally so, it ads charm to a fun movie, all the more amusing for taking itself so seriously despite it’s outlandish plot and monster. Corman gets good work out of his cast, which also includes frequent Corman actress Beverly Garland (Swamp Woman, Not of This Earth) and Sally Fraser, who was in such cult classics as Earth vs. the Spider and War Of The Colossal Beast. The film, due to it’s small budget, does focus more on character drama than creature hi-jinx, but it’s atmospheric and keeps one interested till the military finally take on the alien dictator in true 50s creature feature fashion. There is also a very effective mood building score by Ronald Stein who composed for many a Corman classic. If you love the sci-fi flicks of this decade, this is one of the classics and an early example of the low budget entertainment that made Roger Corman one of the most successful producers of all time and an underrated director.

I had a fun time watching this again. It’s judged due to it’s cheesy creature, but the monster has become iconic, representing the creature features of the 50s and the film is better than it is given credit for. It obviously influenced future alien invader flicks, just look at Without Warning’s flying creature weapons as a perfect example and as usual with a Corman production, features future stars like Van Cleef and Graves. Corman is now a legend for making these kind of inexpensive but profitable features and who cares if it’s title monster looks like it could hide in a salad bar or seafood buffet. A fun example of what made the 50s era monster flicks so endearing. Also features frequent Corman actor, the legendary, Dick Miller as a soldier.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 alien vegetable/crustacean hybrids with a taste for megalomania.

 

 

 

 

 

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FAREWELL AND R.I.P. ERIN MORAN!

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ERIN MORAN 1960-2017

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While most folks remember actress Erin Moran as Richie Cunningham’s spunky little sister, Joanie on Happy Days and it’s brief running spin-off Joanie Loves Chachi, MonsterZero NJ will always fondly recall the actress for her role in the cult classic Corman flick Galaxy Of Terror as psychic, and very claustrophobic, Quest crew member Alluma. Sadly, the actress was found unresponsive in her Indiana home and the cause of death has yet to be determined. She was only 56.

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-MonsterZero NJ

Sources: internet

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HAPPY 91st BIRTHDAY, ROGER CORMAN!

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The legendary director/producer of countless classic exploitation and B-movies turns 91 today! Happy Birthday, Roger Corman!

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If you haven’t picked up this great book about Roger Corman’s career, YOU SHOULD! (review HERE)


-MonsterZero NJ

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: EAT MY DUST! (1976)

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EAT MY DUST! (1976)

(Remember, clicking the highlighted links brings you to other reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

A year before Smokey And The Bandit and a good three years before The Dukes Of Hazzard, Ron Howard led a cross county chase in this Roger Corman produced action/comedy. The story is simple…teen Hoover Niebold (Ron Howard) wants to impress beautiful blonde Darlene Kurtz (Christopher Norris) who has a love for fast cars. Hoover steals the fastest stock car on the track, belonging to local legend Big Bubba Jones (Dave “Mr. Kincaid” Madden) to take her for a ride. This joy ride turns into a hot pursuit as his sheriff father (Warren Kemmerling) leads the chase, followed by a posse of drunken stock car racers and inept deputies!

Car chase flick is written and directed by Charles B. Griffith who wrote a lot of scripts for Corman during the 60s, 70s and 80s, including many of his classics. It is a light, fun and fast paced effort that made a lot of money for Corman and New World Pictures. The film was part of a deal with Ron Howard, who had star power from Happy Days and was looking to direct. If he starred in this, he could make another film for Corman from the director’s chair, which would become Grand Theft Auto. The result is a good time with a lot of slapstick comedy and an almost non-stop chase with young Hoover outwitting his dad’s deputies and Big Bubba’s drunken buddies. As with most Corman films, there is a lot accomplished with a little and Griffith brings a light, breezy fun to the proceedings and keeps things moving quickly. It’s silly and goofy, but energetic and there is plenty of stunts and crashes for car chase enthusiasts to enjoy.

Howard plays Hoover much like a grown up version of his Opie Taylor from The Andy Griffith Show. He’s a bit of a country bumpkin, but is clever enough to outwit his pursuers. Howard has charm and is very likable as the rebellious teen willing to do anything for love. Christopher Norris is pretty and spunky as the object of Hoover’s affection, Darlene. The two make an endearing pair as they outwit the nitwits in their county. The supporting cast all have a good time playing their roles with over-the-top, slapstick efficiency, too and it’s fun to watch them. The film also stars Howard’s brother Clint, a known cult favorite character actor himself.

This film is now considered a cult classic and in an indirect way got Ron Howard started on a career as a prolific and highly regarded director. It’s silly, funny and loaded with plenty of chases and crashes. It was a successful film for Corman’s New World Pictures and predated the “redneck” car chase craze started by Smokey And The Bandit by a year. A fun little movie and another example of Roger Corman’s craft as a producer.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 rebel caps.

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: STRIPPED TO KILL (1987)

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STRIPPED TO KILL (1987)

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Roger Corman produced flick finds a mysterious killer brutally murdering strippers. Pretty police detective Cody Sheenan (Kay Lenz) goes undercover in a strip club to try and catch the culprit. Her partner, Heineman (Greg Evigan) tries to keep a close eye on her, but with so many suspects, can he protect her if Cody becomes the next target?

Exploitation flick is directed by Katt Shea (as Katt Shea Ruben) who used to be an actress in some Corman productions. It is another example of Corman giving women a chance behind the camera when few others were doing it. It’s from a script from she and then husband Andy Ruben and started the actress off on a career behind the camera. As with most Corman productions there is a focus on nudity and there is plenty, including from leading lady Kay Lenz. But Shea manages to also portray a more sympathetic side to these ladies and not as just sex objects. The film may be a bit amateurish at times and the script, especially the dialog, could have used a bit of work, but first time director Shea does get some effective moments in and does make us feel for the targeted strippers. The death scenes are brutal and effective and the last act reveal/chase sequence between Cody and the killer is suspenseful and puts our heroine through the ringer. The film itself is very low budget and wisely sets a lot of it’s action in the strip club and overall, is a little thriller that shows a director’s potential and does it’s job as an exploitation flick though one with a bit of a sympathetic side towards it’s subject matter.

The acting varies in a low budget flick like this. Leads Kay Lenz and Greg Evigan are vets of TV and movies and are fine. Lenz in particular has both a toughness and a soft side to her Detective Sheenan. Another TV vet, Norman Fell, is appropriately sleazy as club owner Ray, yet he’s not portrayed as an outright bad guy and does seem to have some affinity for his performers. The rest of the supporting cast do well enough as various strippers and suspects and our killer is very effective once revealed.

While far from a perfect flick, Stripped to Kill gets the job done. It gives the targeted audience the nudity and violence they came for and yet Director Katt Shea does portray her stripper characters with a sympathetic eye. There is also some disturbing scenes and some suspense, especially in the last act and leading lady Kay Lenz not only is a likable heroine cop, but is surprisingly not shy with the nudity required for the role. A very successful flick for Corman and the start of a prolific directing career for Katt Shea, including the cult classic thriller Poison Ivy with Drew Barrymore.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1/2 pumps.

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WARNING: This is the RED BAND trailer NSFW!

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BARE BONES: DEATH RACE 2050 (2017)

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DEATH RACE 2050 (2017)

Leave it to Roger Corman to remake his own classic. After a lackluster redo in 2008 with Jason Statham, simply titled Death Race, Corman returns to the source material for a more faithful remake of his classic Death Race 2000. The result is a silly flick that finds an overpopulated United Corporations of America initiating the annual Death Race to trim the population and entertain the overcrowded masses. The #1 driver of this cross country demolition derby of carnage is Frankenstein (Manu Bennett), who not only has to deal with new rival Jed Perfectus (Burt Grinstead), who wants his crown, but a rebel movement that wants his head. Can the cyborg star driver survive the race, the rebels and his own hot co-pilot with her own agenda, Annie (Marci Miller)?

Corman produced flick is directed by G.J. Echternkamp who co-wrote the script with Matt Yamashita. The result is a silly, and sometimes amateurish effort that doesn’t come close to the original classic, though feels more like a Death Race 2000 remake than the 2008 version. It does have an infectious delirious energy and leads Bennett and Miller are appealing, but the direction and script are too lackluster and goofy to really make this flick a treat. The original 1975 version blended the violence and satire perfectly and this version needed a more deft hand behind the camera and some more genuine wit in the script. There is plenty of gore and there is a nice chemistry between Frankenstein and Annie, but the film ultimately falls far short of what it is trying to emulate. Also stars Malcolm McDowell as The Chairman and Yancy Butler as the rebel leader.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: NOT OF THIS EARTH (1988)

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NOT OF THIS EARTH (1988)

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Roger Corman production is most famous for being the first mainstream movie to star notorious underaged porn star Traci Lords after her scandal broke in 1986. It was also made on a dare as director Jim Wynorski (The Lost Empire, Return Of Swamp Thing) bet Corman he could remake his 1957 original with the same budget and on the same shooting schedule. The result follows the original’s plot with nurse Nadine Story (Lords) as she is asked to be a live-in caretaker for the mysterious and apparently fatally ill Mr. Johnson (Arthur Roberts). Little does the sexy angel of mercy know that Johnson is an alien visitor whose planet is dying and needs the blood of the human race to survive.

Flick is a goofy but fun exploitation flick that is purely tongue in cheek and never tries to be anything more than it is. Wynorski rolls out the jokes and boobs, especially that of his star, who is paraded around in a sexy nurses outfit, bikini or less. It’s pure junk food but it does amuse and what do you expect from a remake of a cult classic made on a dare? There is a lot of stock footage from earlier Corman flicks, including an entire sequence lifted right out of Humanoids From The Deep with a re-filmed climax that uses a completely different actress. Low Budget filmmaking at it’s finest! And what makes this work as well as it does, as with laughably cheesy dialogue and over-the-top performances, is that you can tell the cast and director were just having a good time. It does spread to the audience and it is entertaining in a ‘so bad it’s good’ way. Production wise it looks cheaply made and makes no effort to hide it and has a great 80s electronic score from frequent Wynorski composer Chuck Cirino.

Lords was looking to go straight after being outed as an underaged adult video performer and costing the industry millions as all but one of her films had to be destroyed. Typical of the crafty Wynorski and Corman, they took advantage of her notoriety and actually got her a start in what has turned out to be a prolific mainstream film and television career. She’s not bad in this and one of the few cast members to play it straight and she makes a good heroine despite the nonsense going on around her. Arthur Roberts also plays it straight as the alien Mr. Johnson who is like Mr. Spock meets Count Dracula. In support Ace Mask as Dr. Rochelle, Lenny Juliano as small time hood turned chauffeur, Jeremy and Rodger Lodge as Nadine’s cop boyfriend, all ham it up with an appearance by 80s icon Kelli Maroney in a small role as Nurse Oxford. A cast obviously having a good time.

I like Wynorski’s flicks, this one included. Sure, on one hand they are silly junk, but they have their heart in the right place and are unapologetic when it comes to what they are and what their intent is. Not Of This Earth is a goofy flick made on a bet and simply to be enjoyed with a six pack on the couch…and that’s just fine with me.

MonsterZero NJ Personal Nostalgia: In 1986 I was working in a Palmer Video when my boss frantically came in one morning and ordered us to remove all of Traci Lords’ films from the adult video room stock. He told us why and of course we went through the stock and did as he asked. I remember all that day we kept getting people calling and coming in asking if we had any of her movies to rent. Sadly, we had to disappoint them. Another fond memory of my days in the long gone era of the video rental store.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 transfusions of audacious silliness.

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: SPACE RAIDERS (1983)

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SPACE RAIDERS (1983)

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Actually saw this fun little Roger Corman flick in a theater back in 1983. It’s a slight departure for Corman as it was more kid friendly in tone and came with a PG rating. It tells the tale of a young boy named Peter (David Mendenhall), who while playing in the warehouse of his father’s company, gets caught in the middle of a firefight between security and a band of pirates. Peter hides in the very cargo ship the pirates wind up stealing and now is trapped with them as they flee. He slowly endears himself to the band of thieves as he and they are pursued by both bounty hunters and a massive robot warship.

While basically void of the usual blood and boobs that Corman’s flicks were notorious for, this flick does have his thriftiness, as it’s effects are basically recycled from Corman classics like Battle Beyond The Stars, Galaxy Of Terror, Forbidden World and Android. The James Horner score is lifted from Battle Beyond the Stars and Humanoids From The Deep as well. Written and directed by Howard R. Cohen, the film makes the most of it’s minuscule budget and what it can’t accomplish with modest action and recycled battle scenes, it does with heart. Despite not being big on action and having seen a lot of the space battles before in the film’s mentioned, the movie is harmless and fun in spite of it’s economical approach, in a time where big budget space adventures were becoming common. It’s loaded with charm, as were most of Corman’s flicks, even if it couldn’t possibly compete with the same year’s Return Of The Jedi.

The cast also give this a bit of spunk, too. Mendenhall is cute and likable as the wide-eyed Peter who is having the time of his life with a crew of pirates. While on the subject, the likable band of rogues is captained by Vince Edwards as Hawk. Edwards, who was doctor Ben Casey on TV from 1961 to 1966, plays the ex-soldier with a heart of gold with the appropriate grit and grizzle. He is joined by soap stars Thom Christopher and Patsy Pease as Flightplan and Amanda respectively, with Drew Snyder and future Ghoulies director Luca Bercovici rounding out the crew. B-Movie icon Dick Miller also appears. Everybody takes the material seriously enough to make it work, but appear to be having fun.

This is not a great movie by any lengths, but it has a charm and heart and that makes it fun despite the low budget limitations. You have to give Corman credit for getting another movie out of SPFX, sets and music from past productions and having his filmmakers show some restraint to deliver a more kid friendly flick. One of the last of Corman’s New World Pictures productions before he sold it.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 (out of 4) recycled spaceships from Battle Beyond The Stars.

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: ANDROID (1982)

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ANDROID (1982)

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This 1982 Roger Corman production tells the story of android Max 404 (Don Opper, who co-wrote with James and Will Reigle). Max’s advanced programing causes him to form human emotions, but not the capability to completely control them. His creator, Dr. Daniels (Klaus Kinski) becomes wary of this and plans to destroy Max once his more advanced replacement, Cassandra (Kendra Kirchner) is activated. When three fugitives, including a woman (Norbert Weisser, Crofton Hardester and Brie Howard) come aboard their isolated space station, it gives Dr, Daniels a female test subject to finish Cassandra and Max an infatuation that may send he and his newfound emotions over the edge…dangerously over the edge.

Android is an entertaining diversion from the typical Corman fair, there is violence and nudity, but it is with restraint and serves the story and not for the usual exploitation purposes. Director Aaron Lipstadt directs this sci-fi Frankenstein tale with a far more sensitive hand then most Corman flicks and gives us a character story driven more by emotion than action. We feel for Max as he tries to cope with his emotions and root for him even when they drive him to do morally questionable things. And since Max is surrounded by people of questionable morals, we don’t totally blame him for his responses to the situations that Dr. Daniels and the fugitives provoke. The low budget production is made with the usual Corman thriftiness, but looks good enough to support it’s story and the FX aren’t bad. There is also a cool and very 80s electronic score by Don Preston to support the atmosphere director Lipstatdt gives the film.

Director Lipstadt gets good performances from his cast, especially Opper who portrays Max’s naivety and confusion very well and Kinski who makes a perfectly slimy and obsessed scientist. Also, Norbert Weisser’s Keller is a somewhat sympathetic bad guy while Hardester’s Mendez is a cliché bully/douchebag. And as for the ladies, Brie Howard is tough and yet sweet as Maggie and Kirchner does fine as the Bride Of Frankenstein-ish Cassandra, who turns out to be more then anyone bargined for.

Android is an interesting attempt by Corman and Co. at a sci-fi flick with a bit more substance and succeeds far more than it fails. It may be a bit slow paced and somber, but at a tight 80 minutes it’s never boring and does entertain us just fine, as well as, tell it’s story. The film was released as a midnight show in art houses to emphasize that this was something a bit more unique than New World normally produced and I had the pleasure of seeing it at such a show at NYC’s Waverly theater in Greenwich Village when it opened in 1982.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 Max 404s.

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TRAILER EMERGES FOR THE NEW TOHO GODZILLA RESURGENCE!

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Toho Studios has released a trailer for their first Godzilla film in over ten years! Check out not one but two trailers for Godzilla Resurgence! Film opens in japan 7/29/2016 and looks really cool!

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Godzilla Resurgence Trailer #1

 

Godzilla Resurgence Trailer #2 (basically a shorter version of trailer #1)

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Source : Youtube

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